Monday, March 29, 2010

Gig Etiquette Pt. 2 - Song Requests

Requests can be fun. Requests can also be jalapeño-soaked, sautéed hell on a stick.

There are a few key points to keep in mind when making requests of a performer that will ensure the likelihood of you hearing your fave song and (hopefully) avoiding said performer berating you from the stage immediately prior to burying a microphone stand in your ear canal.

I don't need to be tipped for each and every request, but it sure is nice when that happens! I really dig almost all the songs I know how to play, and am more than happy to play them when requested... though every time someone asks for "Sweet Caroline", I die a little inside.

Here are 10 tips to help make the most of your song request:

1 - Please don't make a request while I'm singing. Yes, this happens. Often. If my mouth is open, and my vocal chords are vibrating, how is it that you expect me to answer you when you keep repeatedly shouting "Do you know any BODEEEEEANS???!!". Think, darlin'.

2 - Please don't make a request if you're smashed drunk. The sloppy-slurred request for "that song that goes duhduhduh-duhduh-duh... you know?" is about as welcome as a rabid ferret in my shorts. UNLESS you're laying down an insanely huge, monstrously sizeable tip. Currency covers all manner of sins at a gig. This one is often very closely related to the next one:

3 - Know the song you're going to request. "We had it played at our wedding... umm... gee... what was that... it's my favorite Bob Dylan song of all time... or was it Pat Boone? Could have been Denver Stevens. Is that his name? It's something about a horse and time travel in Alabama I think... you know?"

4 - If I say I don't know it, I don't know it. I enjoy playing people's requests, I really do. If I say I don't know how to play "Welcome to the Jungle", I'm not lying to you. Why would I? And every time you say, "Oh come on, you know it! Uh-huh... you do too... just play it!", you're only making me contemplate how wonderful it would be to possess the ability to make others spontaneously combust. As referenced in #2, singing/humming/duh-duh-duh-ing part of the song is equally pointless.

5 - Keep it realistic. Asking for anything that's actually received radio play is your best bet. Asking for an artist's deep cuts is less likely to get a positive result... not something I'd recommended making a habit of, but you never know. And asking for that b-side from the Live in Tokyo disk that was only available as an 8-track bootleg from their tour in 1973... there's a good chance that I'm imagining your head as a fireball again.

6 - Tip accordingly. If you've asked for a ton of songs over the course of the night, and the guy (or gal) at the mic has managed to play most of them, you'd better be dropping some legal tender with someone besides Lincoln or Washington on it in their jar.

7 - Put a cap on it. Do you really want to hear a certain song, or is the act of making a request somehow thrilling in and of itself? Making a request between each song I play is bad. If you stop me from moving to my next song to just sit and go, "Hmmm... wait a minute... ummm... (turning to the person next to you) what's a good song? Let me think for a minute..." Flame on.

8. Don't give me a hard time if I don't know it. I know over 300 songs (and counting). I simply don't have time to learn everything there is. Also, everyone has artists they can't stand, myself included. My apologies if you love someone I'm not fond of, but I just can't bring myself to listen to Neil Young or learn a song by some Cat who supports religiously-motivated hits on people.

9. Keep it in style. Do I really sound like I would do Korn or Slipnot? Pink? Taylor Swift? Sit down.

10. Don't request the same song multiple times. Yeah, you might love "Layla" so much you want to hear me play it back to back until the gig ends, but that doesn't mean everyone else that's listening feels the same way. Think of others. Other people... and other songs.

I hope this helps. Feel free to print this out and take it with you the next time you're venturing out for an evening of live music. You'll be requesting like a pro before you know it.

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